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Call for a change of tact on internet safety

Parents are being encouraged to teach their children about their conduct on the internet as well as checking the content of the web. In recent months a number of campaigns have focused on protecting youngsters from inappropriate material such as pornography. The Government's introduced an 'opt-in' system which requires new users to say if they wish to see the content. But new research out today suggests children need to be wiser about what they get up to online. According to an investigation by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP), hundreds of children are being bullied and blackmailed online by paedophiles. It says abusers are targeting youngsters and recording them on a web cam, then telling them they'll share the material with their friends unless they do as they are told. Many are then forced to perform sex acts online or give large amounts of money. Vivienne Pattison is a Christian and the Director of the Children and Families Media Education Trust.

She tells Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour the UK's made big strides with the 'opt-in' filter but we now need to take further action:

According to CEOP, 424 children have been caught out by online sexual blackmail, with 184 from the UK. Of that number, seven seriously self-harmed and seven took their own life. Daniel Perry, from Scotland, killed himself earlier this year after he found out he'd become the victim of blackmailers who tricked him into believing he was talking to an American girl who was the same age as him. He was then told his conversations would be sent to friends and family unless he paid them money. CEOP is looking to crackdown on this area.

Deputy Chief Executive, Andy Baker said:

"These offenders are cowards. They hide behind a screen, and in many cases make hollow threats which they know they will never act on because by sharing these images will only bring the police closer to them.

"However, our research shows that the power offenders use on their victims means children who are forced into performing acts on webcam or sending pictures can feel trapped, and some tragically go on to self-harm or in the worst cases take their own lives.

"The stories we hear are truly tragic and you cannot help but be touched by the emotional rollercoaster these youngsters must be going through. But there is help for children and their friends, as well as worried parents."

The Churches Child Protection Advisory Service is urging churches to help children to stay safe online and has five tips for young people: 

  • If talking to someone online and they to move to private messaging ask yourself why? If not happy don't do it. 
  • The more you tell people about what's happened to you online or getting support for it the stronger you are.
  • Don't respond to any threats online. Tell a parent, carer or teacher as soon as you can (or @NSPCC @childline CEOPUK).
  • Think about risk of being recorded doing something in public that you'd be embarrassed about friends/family seeing.
  • Never share images online that you wouldn't be happy for your friends/family to see incl. being naked on webcam.
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